By Sarah Wakasa
Gaborone, 26 October 2011 – When unexpectedly heavy floods displaced more than a million people in southern Africa in 2007, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) began to meet annually to prepare for future occurrences, culminating in the creation of the SADC Regional Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction this month.
The community’s regional platform was launched as member countries brace for a season of severe storms and floods that are expected to alternate with drought and long dry spells, predicted to continue until March next year.
The SADC Regional Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction was officially inaugurated by Joel Morgan, Seychelles Minister of Home Affairs, Environment, Transport and Energy, at an annual SADC Disaster Risk Reduction and Preparedness Planning Workshop, which took place from 12 to 14 October in the Seychelles.
Morgan was responsible for presenting the nation’s disaster management policy to the Seychelles National Assembly in November 2010. Seychelles, a member of SADC, has its own unique problems, climate change has left the island in danger of losing its protective reef barrier and a sea-level rise could threaten its survival.
The preparedness planning workshop, entitled ‘Improving preparedness and addressing risk factors in the SADC Region,’ was held under the auspices of the SADC Secretariat and the Government of Seychelles, with support from UNISDR, the UN disaster reduction office, and OCHA.
As work gets underway for the SADC Regional Platform, Youcef Ait-Chellouche, Deputy Regional Coordinator for UNISDR Africa, stressed the importance of focusing on implementation and ‘operational strategies.’
“We should create operational frameworks to prevent risk wherever we can. What we cannot prevent, we should mitigate. What we cannot mitigate, we should transfer. We prepare for the rest,” said Mr. Ait-Chellouche.
Disaster managers in Southern Africa are overburdened by disaster response, noted Kelly David, Head of the OCHA Regional Office for Southern Africa. “They may consider leaving the role of coordinating disaster prevention and mitigation to their ministries of economic and development planning, since those activities involve development actors,” he said.
This year’s workshop was attended by 11 SADC Member States (Botswana, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe), with the exception of Angola and Democratic Republic of Congo, which had taken part in the Central African Platform, and South Africa. Though not a SADC member, the Comoros also attended. Also attending were seven United Nations (UN) organizations: UNISDR, UNOCHA, FAO, UNICEF, WFP, WHO and UNEP, together with the World Bank, IFRC, ICLEI, Oxfam, MSB Sweden, FEWSNET and Columbia University/IRI.
Africa has recently revised the time-frame for its programme of action for disaster risk reduction to end on 2015, to match the end-date of the internationally-agreed Hyogo Framework of Action – a ten-year disaster reduction blueprint adopted in 2005 by 168 governments.
For more information please contact:
Kennedy Masamvu, Disaster Risk Reduction Advisor, SADC Secretariat Email: [email protected] or
Youcef Ait Chellouche, Deputy Regional Coordinator, UNISDR, Regional Office for Africa
Email: [email protected] / www.unisdr.org and www.sadc.int